Christian Peacemakers Ask Christmas Silence, Prayers

Christian Peacemaker Teams
Box 126, Hebron, Palestine
Mobil Phone: (973) 050-397.506; 050-316.162

CPT U.S. Office
Box 6508, Chicago, IL 60680
Telephone: 312.455.1199
Fax: 312.432.1213

For Immediate Release

BETHLEHEM, December 10, 2000--Since the beginning of the new Intifada, or Uprising, in early October, the town of Bethlehem and the adjoining, predominantly Christian, villages of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala have suffered from repeated bombings by the Israeli military.

Many Beit Jalan families facing the Israeli settlement of Gilo and Beit Sahourian families whose houses are next to a military camp have fled their homes.  Additionally, the military has sealed off even the side roads into the area, which is leading to the economic strangulation of the three towns.

The annual Christmas festivities in Bethlehem's Manger Square have been cancelled, because the organizers have deemed it inappropriate to celebrate when Palestinians all over the West Bank and Gaza are being killed.

The current 60 percent unemployment rate in the area is making it nearly impossible for Christians and Muslims to buy what they need for Christmas and Ramadan feasts and gifts.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is calling on the churches of North
America to show solidarity with the Christian and Muslim residents of
Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala by sitting in darkness and silence for five minutes during their annual Christmas services.

"Ask the members of your congregation to pray for the families living in the war zone that encompasses Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour and for an end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza", Team Members located in Hebron have urged.  The Team is drawn primarily from the historic "peace churches" in the United States and Canada--Mennonites, Quakers, and the Church of the Brethren.  Also participating are Roman Catholics and other Protestants.

Additionally, the CPT is asking U.S. residents to write their legislators and President Clinton, notifying them that their congregations will be remembering the struggles of people living under the Israeli occupation in the three villages during their Christmas services.

"You may refer to the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which is in the process of setting up a new project in a neighborhood in Beit Jala that has been repeatedly bombed," the Team Members suggested.  "Note that CPT's presence in Hebron has helped to reduce violence there, and requests that all Palestinians and Israelis receive more comprehensive international protection."

The Peacemakers urged that "Canadian citizens should write to the Prime Minister and their members of Parliament commending the government for its recent vote in the U.N.  The Security Council recently condemned Israel's use of excessive force against Palestinians."

They described the intolerable conditions that the residents of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala are living under and appealed for unarmed international observers to provide protection for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Christian Peacemaker Teams, has helped to serve as a violence-deterring presence in the West Bank city of Hebron for the last five years. A similar project in Beit Jala will be established the next week.

As a sign that they do not count their lives as more valuable than
Palestinian or Israeli lives, Canadian and American CPTers have moved into a neighbourhood in Beit Jala that has been a target of repeated shellings.   They hope that unarmed international observers in the Occupied Territories will demonstrate that Palestinian lives are worth the same as Israeli and North American lives.